PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of hundreds of mourners attending a funeral in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 27 people. Among those killed was a newly-elected lawmaker who may have been the target, authorities said.
The blast was the worst attack in the region since the May 11 nationwide elections installed a new government in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The carnage poses a challenge for the newly-installed provincial government of cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, who campaigned on a platform that he would negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban to bring an end to the years of fighting and attacks in northwestern Pakistan.
The bombing, which took place in the village of Sher Garh near the city of Mardan, killed 27 people and wounded at least 57, said a senior police officer in Mardan, Tahir Ayub Khan.
A witness told Pakistan's Dunya television that 700 to 800 people were attending the funeral when the suicide bomber detonated the device.
"We all fell down after the blast," he said. "There were bodies and wounded everywhere."
The lawmaker, Imran Khan Mohmand, ran in Pakistan's May 11 parliamentary and provincial elections as an independent candidate and later supported the party of Imran Khan, the ex-cricketer. This was the second provincial lawmaker affiliated with the party to be killed since the election. Another lawmaker, also an independent who later joined Khan's party, was shot dead earlier in the month.
Khan campaigned on an anti-American platform in which he blamed the CIA's drone program and the war in Afghanistan for leading to much of the violence in Pakistan. He also favored negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban over military operations to root them out, and many of his aides and supporters said the party would not allow Pakistan to be used to ferry supplies to and from NATO troops in Afghanistan.
His party came in third in the nationwide elections but gained enough seats to form the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.